This is the first tablet that I've ever tested and I went into it with a bit of an unfair bias AGAINST tablets. I've never really seen the need for one, because I find them too bulky to carry around, and so for me they don't work as a substitute for a smartphone. I'm also a software developer, and so I needed a full laptop to do development work on. My time with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10 didn't change my mind about tablets, but I promise not to let my bias stand in the way of a reporting on this device as I do for all Android smartphones.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 10 that I tested is one of whole range of new tablets that is slated for release at the end of the February. This lineup will come in 3 screen sizes, which are 8.4 inches, 10.1 inches, and 12.2 inches. There will be WiFi-only versions (which I tested) and versions that offer cellular connectivity via LTE. These devices will also be available in Galaxy Tab versions (which I tested) and Galaxy Note versions. The latter differs from the Tab in that it offers the S-Pen (and its included functionality), but is otherwise essentially the same device. To make the choice even more bewildering, you will also be able to pick up 32 GB or 64 GB versions.
As the tested device did not come with a cellular radio, you'll find that this review does not include the usual categories of "RF Performance" or "Audio Performance", as these do not apply.
I tested the Tab Pro against my Galaxy S4, and when it came to WiFi sensitivity and speed they were closely matched. My GS4 always managed to see 1 or 2 more of the weak neighborhood WiFi signals than the Tab, but there really wasn't much to tell them apart. When it came to speeds connecting from my basement to upstairs hotspot, both devices did just as well. Throughout my testing of smartphones over the last year so, where I'd been doing specific WiFi tests of devices, the GS4 has proven to have a very good chipset. By extension, the new Galaxy Tab also has excellent WiFi performance.
The Tab has stereo speakers, located on either end of the device so that you get correct stereo sound when viewing the device in landscape mode. The produce plenty of volume, but the overall sound quality isn't really that great. Compared to the mono speaker on the GS4 for example, the sound from the Tab's speakers was slightly tinnier. As for volume, the Tab was louder than the GS4, but at full volume I found that the speakers distorted and I had to turn it down a little to clear up the distortion. By then the Tab was only marginally louder than the GS4.
As I've noted in many reviews, the king-of-the-hill when it comes to sound from the small native speakers is the HTC One. Compared to that phone the Tab sounds cheap, as do virtually all other smartphones on the market.
Multimedia sound on the Tab is therefore acceptable, but not markedly different from what we current expect from much smaller smartphones.
While Samsung is well known for using Super AMOLED displays on their smartphones, they chose not to in the case of the Galaxy Tab. Instead we get a Super Clear LCD display that actually works exceptionally well. It's bright, colorful, and it suffers no color distortion and very little dimming effect as the viewing angle increases. The screen resolution is 2560 x 1600, which makes it the highest-resolution tablet presently on the market, beating out even the iPad Air (which has a screen resolution of 2048 x 1536). Of course, pixel density varies depending upon which screen size you choose.
The 10.1-inch screen looks very sharp, but when I played videos I found myself far less impressed than I'd thought I would be. The problem was that videos that were lower resolution than the screen (which is most of them) I could clearly seen blocky square pseudo-pixels. The graphics engine in the Tab doesn't appear to anti-alias the videos at all. I compared this to lower resolution videos played on my LG HDTV and they never showed that blockiness. While I suspect that the GS4 was doing the same thing as the Tab, its much smaller screen means I can't detect the blocks.
Processor and Chipset
In the case of the WiFi-only models (such as the one I tested) the Tab comes with a Samsung Exynos 5420 chipset with a 1.9/1.3 GHz "octa-core" chip and a Mali T628MP6 GPU. The LTE models get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset with a 2.3 GHz Krait 400 processor and an Adreno 330 GPU. The so-called octa-core chip does actually have 8 processor cores, but it doesn't use them all at once. It's actually a dual quad-core chip that uses ONE OR THE OTHER in an attempt to conserve battery power. The Snapdragon is a single quad-core chip with scalable clock frequency. We saw something like this with the LTE vs non-LTE versions of the GS4.
I couldn't figure out for sure if any of the Tab/Note devices came with 3 GB of RAM, but for certain the one I tested had only 2 GB. A quick scan of the internet demonstrates that others are also unclear on this issue.
You'll be happy to know that the Tab Pro has a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 64 GB cards. It seems that MicroSD cards have been disappearing from many smartphone models over the last couple of years, but Samsung has a remained a staunch supporter.
The Tab comes with an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 2 megapixel front camera. While the 8 megapixel shooter is reasonably good, it doesn't quite match the quality of the 13 megapixel camera used on the GS4. It's unclear why Samsung didn't put the 13 megapixel camera in this device, but at least the one provided isn't terrible. Still shots and videos from this device are good, but they aren't as good as some smartphones on the market today.
I fully expected to find that the Tab had an excellent GPS chip, as do many of the Samsung smartphones I've recently tested (including my GS4). However, the one in the Tab Pro just didn't seem to hold up to the high standards I had come to expect. Overall GPS sensitivity was clearly less than that of my GS4. In my basement the Tab Pro took longer to find a lock, showed signals that were approximately 75% of those showing on the GS4 for any given satellite, and it often lost its lock and had to regain it (sometimes taking more than 10 seconds). It does however support Glonass satellites and often "sees" as many as my GS4, but it rarely locks onto all of them (which the GS4 does).
Most of the references I found online referred to an 8,220 mAh battery, while some Samsung pages referred to a 9,500 mAh battery. I thought they'd put the larger battery in the Note and the smaller battery in the Tab, but I couldn't find any clear information on this. Either way however, it represents an enormous battery, especially compared to the 2,600 mAh one in my GS4. The Tab Pro seems to have good runtime, but it just doesn't seem to be 2.5 to 3 times greater than my phone. This might be because the new battery wasn't yet fully broken in, or that the huge LCD backlight used up a lot of battery power.
All models come with Android 4.4.2 KitKat, but unlike many phones these days it DOES NOT use on-screen control buttons. It has a physical HOME button and softkeys for BACK and MULTITASKING buttons. It DOES NOT have a dedicated MENU key and this creates a problem when running apps not yet converted to have an in-app "overflow" menu button (seen as 3 dots or squares). I stumbled across numerous apps where I was UNABLE to get to the menus at all. It wasn't until later I discovered that pressing and holding the multitasking key pulled up the menus. This is a pest, but nothing major.
As I noted earlier, the time I spent with this tablet didn't change my mind out them personally, but for those who need or want an Android tablet there's little to gripe about here. Overall performance of the tablet was good, but I encountered numerous instances (especially with the Google Play app) where the Tab Pro stuttered much more noticeably than anything I saw on my GS4. I also didn't find that watching videos with lower-than-1080p resolution was particularly pleasant due to the pixilation issue of not anti-aliasing the images. High-resolution still photographs however were great and it was one area where using a tablet (for me at any rate) ranked well above using a 5-inch phone screen.
I'd give this device a 4 out of 5 Howies. I have to mark it down at least one Howie because of its lackluster GPS performance and an "only okay" camera.